16 Sep How to Teach Your Dog Agility Like the Pros
How to Teach Your Dog Agility Like the Pros
Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports in America. It involves dogs racing through obstacles. They learn to run, jump and weave against the clock under the guidance of their handlers. It’s a lot of fun!
You may have seen the TV show and thought, “Wow, my dog can do that!” We are here to tell you that your dog can.
Are you looking for ways to teach your dog agility? The following experts were consulted to provide top tips and tricks for agility training dogs.
- Heather Gillihan, CPDT–KA, is a dog trainer and operations manager at Zoom House Franchising LLC in Fort Worth.
- Janet Velenovsky CPDT. CDBC. KPA-CTP. ACCBC. Janet is also a behavior consultant and trainer for pets. She owns Kaizen Pet Training & Behavior in Montpelier. Virginia.
- Terri Rodriguez, KPA–CTP, agility competitor and dog trainer
- Dr. Sarah J. Wooten is a veterinarian at Sheep Draw Veterinary Hospital, Greeley, Colorado
What are the benefits of dog agility training?
Even if you don’t end up in the show rings, agility training has many benefits.
- Your bond will be strengthened Agility is about working as a team. You will also learn how to communicate with your dog and read them.
- Your dog’s confidence can be increased by agility. Agility can help your dog feel more confident around objects, other dogs, and people.
- It combines mental and physical stimulation. Dr. Wooten says agility is an “awesome exercise in cardio, balance and coordination.” This behavior mimics prey-chasing behavior, and requires thinking skills. It is ideal for high-energy dogs.
- This can help your dog focus better. You can teach your dog to pay attention when you are distracted. This will encourage them to stay close to you throughout the day.
Are You a Good Sport Agility Dog?
At agility events, you’ll often see Border Collies or other herding dog breeds on podiums.
Velenovsky explains that these dogs are more inclined to listen to their handlers and want to work. She adds that agility is something that “any dog who is healthy can do.” This includes small dogs like Chihuahuas.
Gillihan says it all begins with strong relationships between dog and person, and high drive.
Rodriguez says that dogs who are able to jump fast and can wrap jumps tight, as well as maneuver contact obstacles easily, are the dogs Rodriguez calls the fastest dogs.
It is a good idea to consult your vet before you start agility training. Your dog must be healthy and pain-free.
Dr. Wooten says that agility can be taught to older dogs. Courses can also be modified to accommodate the needs of elderly dogs, such as their endurance and joints. Talking to a vet about new exercise programs is important for dogs suffering from heart disease or osteoarthritis.
It’s more than just the physical condition of your dog. Your dog’s mental health is equally important.
Watch your dog explore the world around you and take notes on how they react to different textures, sounds, heights, and objects. Agility may not be for them if they aren’t open to new experiences.
You will need to make sure your dog is comfortable with other dogs and people if you are interested in joining an agility class.
Do you have more questions about your pet? Get expert advice via Chewy’s Connect with a Vet service. Available daily between 8 and 11 p.m. ET.
How Soon Can You Begin Dog Agility Training?
Cardio–or as Dr. Wooten calls it, “hardcore cardio” –and impact training?
Dr. Wooten states that training should not begin until the dog is fully grown, which can be anywhere from 12 to 18 months depending on the breed. This is because high-impact exercise can have a negative impact on a dog’s young skeleton and joints.
To avoid injury, you should not allow your dog to jump, weave, or do other repetitive movements until they are all grown up.
Always check with your vet before your dog can use agility equipment.
How to teach your dog agility: beginner’s tips
Gillihan suggests that you first “find a positive reinforcement center [which rewards desired behavior with praise and treats] and coach to teach you the basics” and encourage a positive relationship between your dog and you.
Professional help is also needed to train your dog to navigate the agility obstacles they will encounter on the course. These “contact agility obstacles” include A-frames and teeters as well as long dog walks. Non-contact obstacles include jumps, weave poles, tunnels and other maneuvers.
Rodriguez says that these [contact agility obstacles] can prove dangerous if they are not properly trained.
Velenovsky says it’s a great idea to attend agility trials and chat with people about their dogs. You might even be able to volunteer to help. You can learn so much by just watching!
Redeem your points
Dr. Wooten suggests that you use food treats in small, digestible amounts, such as liver training treats and small pieces of deli beef.
She says, “Something that tastes amazing but doesn’t require chewing or is heavy on the stomach.”
Reward your dog for every good behavior. This will motivate them to do the exact same thing next time.
You can gradually reduce rewards as your dog improves his agility. You should reward your dog every now and again. You don’t get paid for your work, and neither should you!
Learn skills at home
These home agility training tips are for dogs if you want to teach some skills.
Jumping is just that. A dog leaps over a pole or broomstick, if you are DIYing your course! or through a tire or suspended ring. Jumps are also used to describe obstacles. The dog can jump over or through the obstacles; it’s not difficult, is it?
You don’t need to purchase equipment if your dog is old enough to jump.
Gillihan says, “You could make a temporary jump using chairs and a stick.” To get started, you can even use your legs.
Make sure that your dog is not too tall and the surface on which you are training isn’t too slippery. Rodriguez suggests that you start with the jump (or whatever your dog can jump over or through) on a flat surface and then slowly increase the height as your dog gains confidence.
How to teach your dog how to jump
- Gently restrain your dog on the side of the jump.
- Give them something they love such as a treat, toy or another gift.
- Your dog is safe. To help your dog, you may have to jump with them.
- Once your dog has completed the above successfully, you can say “jump!” as your dog jumps. You can repeat this several times.
- Stop giving the reward for the jump. After your dog jumps, release them and say “jump!”
Dogs run through tunnels to learn tunnel skills. They can either be straight or curved. Although proper agility tunnels are expensive, they can be made easily with just a sheet and two chairs. Your dog will find it easier to use a shorter tunnel.
You can teach your dog how to run through a tunnel.
- While your dog explores one end of the tunnel with you, have someone else there to encourage and reward them when they reach the other end.
- If they are still unsure, you can make it more fun by sticking your head into the tunnel and tossing treats. You could even go through yourself if it is big enough!
- Once they are confidently choosing to go through the tunnel, they will start walking towards it and making a hand motion towards it.
- Every time you reward, it is worth it.
You can ask them to go through the tunnel by using your cue in the future.
The weave pole obstacle can be tricky. The challenge involves your dog zigzagging along a set of poles that are spaced 24 inches apart. They can complete 12 poles in a row without missing a single one. This is the art of weaving poles.
You will need a set of weave poles to get started. You will need your dog to be around 12-18 months old to teach the art of weaving. Here is a quick way to get your dog started in training:
How to teach your dog how to weave:
- Place the poles 24 inches apart in a straight line.
- To make your dog’s journey easier, move each other pole one foot from the line. At first, you may have to show your dog. Reward them at the end.
- As your dog runs along the channel made by the poles, add a verbal cue like “weave”.
- Once your dog is able to move through the channel, move the poles closer together until they can be introduced to weaving around them.
- You can repeat the process each time you move the poles closer to the original line.
- After the poles have been rearranged in a straight line, tilt them at an angle. The first tilted to one side, then the second tilted to the right. As your dog walks along, keep using the “weave” command.
- After your dog has become used to the tilted poles of poles, you can straighten them.
Keep sessions short
According to Velenovsky, shorter sessions are better than most training. He also said that training a dog in three to five-minute intervals is sufficient for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Velenovsky states, “In between, ensure they get water, rest, and maybe a little bit of play.”
Remember: Agility should be fun!
Rodriguez advises that dogs should stop the session when they are ready to quit. You can reward your dog with lots of treats and praise if they make a significant step.
The Bottom Line
Rodriguez believes agility is a great way to give your dog exercise and brain stimulation. It can also help you build a stronger relationship with your dog.
Rodriguez states that dogs should be happy with the task at hand and feel a sense of accomplishment after they play. You can tell if your dog is enjoying the task if you pay attention to their body language.
You can train your dog to compete in agility events if you both are interested. However, there is no pressure to do so. It will keep you and your dog engaged if you make training fun. If your dog isn’t keen to learn or is not physically able to do the activity, nosework might be a good alternative. This sport involves dogs smelling out different scents. It’s a great way to teach your dog how to communicate with you. It’s also fun, and who wouldn’t love that?